Mobile Suit Gundam – An Anime That Truly Explores War

Mobile Suit Gundam

This has been article I’ve been meaning to write, now that I’ve finished reviewing all the episodes of “Mobile Suit Gundam.” The first in the “Gundam” series. Suffice to say, I understand how it sparked a franchise. This was an anime that covered the human cost of war and politics, the hard choices, from the civilians caught in the middle who in many cases are forced to take sides, from the good people on both sides of the conflict and how war can lead to regret when a person realizes how it has changed them and those around them. You get to know the characters, which is why these things and many times their dying actually matters.

The human cost of war is the most prevalent thing you feel in “Mobile Suit Gundam,” characters are introduced like Ramba Ral, Crowley, Matilda and others who we come to know right before they are torn from us, in many cases by other characters like the crew of the Trojan Horse who we have come to care for. We also see the human cost in how Amuro’s father is psychologically broken from the attack when he loses oxygen and he is no longer able to fully attach to his son or to use the great engineering mind he once had the designed Gundam.

Characters are also forced to make hard choices and take sides. At one point Amuro leaves, at another point Kai leaves…for Amuro it’s partially because he doesn’t want to give up Gundam, but it’s also him genuinely wanting to prove himself and help in the war, for Kai it’s because he’s tired of fighting in a conflict he never wanted to be a part of. He was a civilian who doesn’t adapt to war until he has a reason when he loses the woman he loves who was a spy who ends up betraying Zeon. She makes that hard choice too as she became a Zeon spy to care for orphan children and needed money. Sayla is also forced to make a choice when she learns her brother Char is serving under the Zeons in order to overthrow them since Char and Sayla are the true heirs before the Zabi family overthrew them. In these moments of hard choices, we get why characters do the things they do. It makes them human and the conflict they are a part of real.

Another aspect covered is how people change. Char goes from his personal vendetta against Amuro to remembering his original mission and destroying the Zabi line so that his new dream of having a world shaped by Newtypes like him and Amuro can become a reality. Degwin Zabi also changes when he sees the human cost of the war and how he has turned his son into a monster who believes in Zeon supreme and decimating the rest of the colonies for population control so Zeon can colonize them. To prevent his Nazi son from destroying his legacy and innocent lives he goes to meet General Revil for a peace talk only for Gehrin to destroy them with the Solar Ray. Amuro also goes from fighting for the sake of fighting to fighting for his family of White Base 7. The crew is his community and home and his last act before saving himself is to get them all to safely with his newtype powers.

Because of all these factors, the choices characters make and the cost that comes with it are accurately felt. In many cases during war there isn’t a right answer, there are only slightly worse or better answers. This moral quandary is part of what makes the characters memorable, they aren’t allowed to stay static because the war presents them with choices and their choices shape the conflict. The series doesn’t end on a completely idealistic note either. An armistice is signed between the Federation and Zeon but it is left open since the cost of the war so high…you know that both sides now carry hatred from what they just went through and for this reason even though there is peace it could very well be temporary as both sides have hurt each other so greatly.

This was an amazing anime and one I’d highly recommend. The animation is a little rough at first and the songs too hopeful but they both get better and better capture the price and cost of war. If you are looking for an anime with compelling characters, good action and choices that mean something, you will enjoy this one greatly. This series makes me look forward to reviewing other series in the “Gundam” franchise.

Final score: 9 / 10. Solidly great, just started out a little rough and the Trojan Horse being unstoppable for a time kept it from being perfect.

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 21 – “The Trap of M’Quve” – The Cost of Loss

The Trap of M'Quve

We continue our bleak journey of loss in “The Trap of M’Quve.” “The Trap of M’Quve” was directed by Shinya Sadamitsu and written by Yoshihasa Arika.

The story is the title, M’Quve is angry at how The Trojan Horse is continuing to destroy his bases so he sets a trap to get them destroyed with his Particle Cannon. Around this time Mr. Bright has fallen into a stupor from exhaustion and sadness over the death of Ryu leaving Mirai in charge of commanding the Trojan Horse. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: M’Quve – M’Quve is a great enemy, from leaving bombs all over the Trojan Horse that injure it and the engine, to attacking it with fighters to lure it in to the area of the particle cannon. He accomplishes everything and White Base 7 only wins by faking their own destruction with Smoke Bombs.

Amuro – Takes control this time on the battlefield and manages to destroy the particle cannon in the end. He is the one who realizes that their dwelling on Ryu is making them not find power in themselves or think things through. For once he’s one of the clearer thinkers in an episode.

Sayla – Besides Amuro Sayla is the one trying to make a difference and keeping her cool. It’s her advice to Mirai that usually got disregarded as Sayla saw the bigger picture. She was the one who should have commanded, not Mirai.

Con: Mirai – She makes a bunch of mistakes and doesn’t even think like the pilot she is. This is a shame as this was her chance to shine but instead she caves to the sadness over Mr. Bright’s illness and the death of Ryu. This is understandable, but not in the face of extermination.

The Crew – There was hardly any leadership displayed in this episode and that falls on the crew. M’Quve almost had things too easy because of the Trojan Horse’s incompetence.

This was a good episode on dealing with the loss of Ryu but not the best epsidoe for the crew as the Trojan Horse is now grounded and can only be saved by outside help. I like that this shows they aren’t unstoppable I just wish a bigger enemy like Char or one of the Zabi family had been the one to do the deed.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 19 – “Hand-to-Hand Combat” – Amuro Learns and the Honor of Ramba Ral

Hand-to-Hand Combat

“Hand-to-Hand Combat” is a great episode. It gives us a greater exploration of Ramba Ral and it looks like Amuro is finally learning! I’ll get into more details in the assessment.

“Hand-to-Hand Combat” was written by Masaru Yamamoto and directed by Ryoji Fujihara and Yoshiyuki Tomino. It is the 19th episode of the first season in the English dub.

The story of the episode involves the crew fracturing as Hayato, Kai and another run away as they are jealous of Mr. Bright’s attention to Amuro, along this time Ryu confronts Amuro only for Amuro to mock him. He later runs after Kai and the group to bring them back as Ramba Ral attacks on a boarding mission to capture the Trojan Horse as M’Quve has left him with no resources in order to hide what he’s doing at his main secret base. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Hayato – It’s nice seeing this kid have some personality finally. He’s jealous and feels forgotten, even as he’s been following orders the whole time. He does come back once Ramba attacks though and brings the rest of the group with him.

Ryu – Ryu is shown to be a leader in this one as he calls Amuro out on his selfishness and also the ones who ran away. He punches Amuro and Kai in this one, which honestly at this point most folks who are watching have been wanting to do, and is called out on it by Hyato…cause in the end his anger doesn’t solve anything. The action of circumstances and reason do, which I think he finally gets.

Mr. Bright – Mr. Bright uses and risks all assets to fight off Ramba’s attack, including destroying the Second Bridge. We see how deeply he cares for the crew and his own insecurities as leader and how Mirai is his base. We see him use every person well in the crisis.

Ramba Ral

Ramba Ral – Finds out something important in his boarding of the Trojan Horse, the Princess Artesia is alive and she is Sayla Maas. It is a powerful scene as he and his family cared for her when she was younger. They don’t have time to connect since Ryu attacks and the attack costs Ramba his life. He does go out with honor though saluting the crew and respecting the fact that soldiers half his age beat him. R.I.P. Ramba Ral, you will be missed and were one of my favorite characters.

Clamp – When he first boards he has one of the younger children get away from the explosion. He is surprised about the children in White Base, his surprise leads to him getting shot and killed though. It was nice seeing kindness during duty though before the end. He was an underutilized character.

Crowley Hamon – Swears revenge and manages to escape the fight. We see the tenderness she feels for Ramba and also her leadership abilities on the main ship as she manages to save the bridge crew from a direct assault by Amuro’s Gundam.

Sayla Mass – Is a princess and connected to Ramba Ral! The scene they have together is one of the best in the series and I can’t wait to learn more about her past and her connection to Char. She does a good job in the Gundam too when Amuro gives her advice. She manages to destroy one of the Zeon Mobile Suits in the fight before Zeon forces board White Base.

Amuro – Finally gets that he is part of a crew. When Bright orders him to guns, he goes to guns and fights and he does all he can to protect others. It looks like he finally understands why he was thrown in the brig and will work to be a part of the group. It is powerful too seeing him morn Ramba Ral’s death.

This is another episode showing the human cost of war and one I highly recommend. It shows us the good people fighting on both sides. Ramba Ral is one of the best characters in “Mobile Suit Gundam” and cares about his men and not harming innocents or anyone on the crew if he can. His love for Crowley is pretty deep too. This was his episode and he gets a good death as it fully captures how great a character he is and his relationship to Sayla which reveals to us potential plot arcs for the future.

The Final Score is: 10 / 10. The perfect episode.

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Threat of Zeon” – Garma’s Legacy

The Threat of Zeon

“The Threat of Zeon” is a good episode. It shows us more of the everyday soldiers of Zeon and the cost that the constant fighting is having on Amuro. The episode is the 12th episode the 1st Season and was written by Kenichi Matsuzaki and directed by Yuichi Yokoyama and Yoshiyuki Tomino.

The story picks up with the beginning of Garma’s memorial service as the Zabi family morns and begins to preach the strength of Zabi to the people as White Base 7 is attacked by the cruiser Zanzabar who is hoping to avenge Garma’s death. Amuro is in rough shape and keeps having panic attacks while getting ready to fight as the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Zeon – Zeon is shown to be allusions to the Nazis and that conquest and military are why they fight. They believe they deserve to rule because they know why they fight and even though they have a smaller military, they have the strongest military. All of this is expressed by Gihran Zabi in his speech to the populace of Zeon. There are many “Hail Zeon!” Making the inspiration behind the nazis complete. The Zeon are great antagonists.

The Zabi Family – We see Gihran take charge, Kycilia seek our Char for her own agenda and Sodo still in mourning. We also see that Dozle’s influence for revenge is pretty strong too as he ordered any ship that sees White Base 7 to attack and avenge Garma’s death.

The Crew of the Zanzabar – We see in these folks experienced soldiers driven by honor. They attack White Base 7 and when Amuro and the Gundams attack the leader Ramba Ral gets into his own personalized Blue Gundam and manages to incapacitate Amuro. We see his caring for his crew as he’s in a relationship with one of his crew named Crowley Hamon and he has both his officers retreat when White Base 7 is able to attack them again. For all intents and purposes they won the fight and hurt the moral of White Base 7, and they aren’t even a Zabi.

Amuro and Ryu – We see Ryu helping Amuro fight on and advocates for him against Mr. Bright since he sees how the fighting fatigue has taken a tole on Amuro’s mind. He saves him later at the end when Amuro is paralyzed again Ramba’s attack.

Okay: Char – We see him briefly mocking Gihran before he is approached by one of Kycilia’s honor guard. He looks bored while at home and it will be good to see him in action again.

This episode was good but not great. We didn’t have all that much time with Char and much of it was Amuro paralyzed in battle. It was great seeing Ramba and the Zanzabar be a good threat though. Ramba cares for his crew and knows when to have his men retreat showing he’s a good leader.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.

 

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Re-Entry Into Earth” – Char’s Trap

Gundam Ep. 5 Re-Entry Into Earth

“Re-Entry Into Earth” is an episode that establishes Char as a pretty amazing threat and that even when he loses he can sometimes find a way to win. The Episode was written by Hiroyuki Hoshiyama and directed by Ryoji Fujihara and Yoshiyuki Tomino.

The story involves White Base 7’s arrival at Earth and attempt to safely enter the atmosphere while being pursued by Char who has been give 3 more Mobile Suits for the fight. The tensions are high as these are some of the best Zeon pilots. From here the story unfolds as Amuro has a limited amount of time to defend the ship and safely re-enter it to not get burned up in the atmosphere.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Amuro – Amuro once again knows he’s out of his league and that it is only the Gundam’s natural adaptibiliy that continues to save him. He does figure out how to adapt the Gundam for protection from the Earth’s Atmosphere though which shows he’s getting better at thinking on his feat.

Mr. Bright – Shows why he is the one leading them all as he uses all the members of White Base 7 to their full abilities as he predicts that Char will try and attack them on their re-entry into Earth. The only thing he doesn’t predict is that Char forced them to enter Zeon space upon Earth.

Char – Loses 8 Mobile Suits but manages to push the Gundam and White Base 7 forces into Zeon territory. He then calls upon Captain Garma who is involved with operations on Earth to take them out. This episode shows that even when he loses, he oftentimes finds a way to win.

Garma – Garma is introduced at the end and he has confidence and arrogance that make him intriguing. He has a grudging respect and history with Char it looks like too which adds to him helping and the stakes that are already there.

Sayla Mass – Is Amuro’s support during the battle and keeps communication between him and the ship.

Okay: The Rest of the Crew – Whether it is Ryu and his fighter or the countless others, they don’t get a chance to really be developed much in this episode. They are mostly folks experiencing the re-entry and attack from Char.

The Civilians – We see Amuro fix a toy robotic car for a child who has been adopted by a kind old man who shares his story of growing coffee on Earth before he left to the colony. It is a decent human moment, but more could have been done. Amuro just listens and doesn’t really share a perspective.

This is a good episode. Not great as a lot of it simply acting and reacting to the actions of Char and Amuro, but still manages to stay really interesting and have some good character moments as well.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 3 – “Vote to Attack” – Learning Teamwork

Gundam episode 3

We continue our reviews of “Mobile Suit Gundam” with episode 3, “Vote to Attack.” This episode was directed by Hideyoshi Ojika and Yoshiyuki Tomino, and written by Yoshihisa Araki.

The story is one of choice, should White Base attack the Zeon’s and Char when they are restocking, or make their way to Luna Base II. The decision is made to attack and the story explores the consequences of that as the crew rises to the challenge and making sense of one another.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Characters

Sayla Mass – We see in this that Sayla Mass is the one holding Captain Bright to the fire so that he doesn’t assume privilege over others. They clash, which is great to see as she is the communications officer, which usually in sci. fi. means they are regulated to love interest or passive person sending out commands. Not so in Sayla Mass’s case.

Kai – Kai is a character who starts out a coward but rises to attack White Base when he sees Amuro is need and that they’ll be destroyed if Char has the chance to resupply. He is still arguing the entire time, but I guess that’s his character. He actually takes action in this episode and contributes showing how the experience of every person needed is changing him.

Captain Bright – Clashes with Sayla but is aware of the crew because of it, has the choice to attack the supply ship put up to a vote and fully contributes to protecting the ship from Zeon forces.

Commander Char – Char is once again a great enemy as we see him care for his men and take the practical approach as he collects supplies and puts his ego aside while the Captain of the supply ship attacks in his Mobile Suit which costs him his life. This was an episode of him getting the weapons he needs and further testing Amuro and Amuro’s Gundam. He does manage to get the supplies in the end, though the supply ship is lost. We also learn that Zeon forces are overextended and Char is on his own.

Amuro – We see him work in coordination with others and how it pays off as they succeed in destroying the supply ship. He also learns just how much better Char is than him and it is only the strength of the Gundam keeping him alive. He also hates that Captain Bright shows him no respect. At the end of the episode he says he wants to punch the Captain.

Okay: Mirai – Leading at the helm and piloting the main ship she is mostly just there like before. She hasn’t gotten a good chance to be explored but she does remind Captain Bright of the choice he faces.

Ryu – The Core Fighter pilot and forgets to turn off his radio, was the only surviving pilot so became one by default. Is still out of his league and needs to be explored more. Mostly the rookie in a support role at this point.

This is the episode where the crew comes together and actually manages to hurt Zeon and Char. It is a great episode and one that shows the tension between characters, Char is shown to see the big picture once again and the crew begins to find their footing and work as a team. I definitely recommend.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10. Some characters could have been explored more.